Business purpose

Business ethics: Do you pass the authenticity test?

- February 20, 2006 2 MIN READ

In these days of people disconnecting from traditional advertising, it’s more important than ever to excite your clients with genuine enthusiasm for your product. When it comes to business ethics and authenticity, how does your solo business shape up?

Do you truly believe in your offering?

Are you absolutely convinced in your offering’s ability to fundamentally contribute real value to your customers? Does it make their lives better? On the flip-side, does your offering create dependency, or exacerbate the insecurities or fears of your customers?

In moments of total honesty with yourself, do cynical thoughts about your offering pop into your head? Can you picture yourself selling your offering to an elderly relative (preferably someone you care about)?

Put another way, with evangelical fervour: Do you B-E-L-I-E-V-E?

What are your intentions?

If we act contrary to our internal intentions, we will appear less than authentic. Not many of us are good enough actors to get away with doing so.

Are you working primarily for the sake of money? And do you at the same time try to sound as if you care for your customers? Don’t!

If you are just about making money, say so. Example: “We provide no customer service, but we are absolutely the cheapest!” Can you see how this would be so much more refreshing and authentic?

What are your measures of success?

Are you working to KPI’s borrowed from the faceless world of big business? Are you measuring by money or your total value contribution? Total value contribution includes financial factors as well as the intangibles of happiness, learning, horizon expansion and empowerment.

Are you totally present when trying to get a customer across the line? Or are you thinking of the next six you need to sign-up before the end of the week or how to up-sell this customer so you can meet your target?

Want more articles like this? Check out the business values section.

What does your marketing material say about your business ethics?

In the rush for validation, there is a great temptation to parrot big business. Business-speak is anti-authenticity. What does “we harness deep industry, process and technology expertise and unrivalled large-scale, complex change capabilities” mean anyway? All this does is to befuddle and belittle the other person. (Homework: read Why Business People Speak Like Idiots by Fugere, Hardaway & Warshawsky).

Do you sound like everyone else? Do you “specialise” in working with small, medium and large businesses?

Are you stating the bleeding obvious? Saying: “We believe in customer service” and “Our product is of the highest quality” is utterly pointless because anyone can say these things and more importantly no one would say the opposite.

Some real life examples of unauthenticity

As a potential customer, you know you’re staring unauthenticity in the face when…

  • The offering comes in mind-boggling packages and plans designed to give customers the illusion of value and choice. Think mobile phone plans.
  • They attempt to “convert” and subsume the personalities of their customers. “If you don’t believe in this pyramid scheme, you are a loser. Do you want to be a nice loser or a rich winner?” Think Amway.
  • Their marketing relies on red-herring “features”. Though factually correct, the selling proposition has nothing to do with the offering or is even an intentional diversion from the truth. Think “cholesterol-free” stickers on coconut or palm oil-based products.
  • They blatantly exploit and exacerbate their customers’ weaknesses. Think “we can help you be debt-free” companies whose purpose is to ensure you end up making your repayments to them instead.

Authenticity requires clarity of intent, self-awareness, and a strong belief in yourself and your offering. If your business is in an authenticity-challenged industry, seize this amazing opportunity now! Choose to be authentic, and you have the potential to fundamentally reinvent your industry.

Article authored in conjunction with Zern Liew.